Airbus 'superjumbo' touches down at Heathrow

17th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

HEATHROW AIRPORT, England, May 18, 2006 (AFP) - The biggest passenger aircraft in the skies, the Airbus A380, landed at London's Heathrow Airport on Thursday, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

HEATHROW AIRPORT, England, May 18, 2006 (AFP) - The biggest passenger aircraft in the skies, the Airbus A380, landed at London's Heathrow Airport on Thursday, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

The super-jumbo touched down at the west London airport at 1:19pm, making its British debut to test new facilities for jumbo aircraft.

The arrival of the gigantic double-decker plane, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines and with British test pilot Ed Strongman at the controls, was witnessed by a reception including British finance minister Gordon Brown.

A few hundred media, airport staff and VIPs greeted the A380 from behind large windows at the new Pier 6 in Heathrow's Terminal 3.

The plane is to carry out compatability tests at Pier 6, which has been built to cater for the A380 and other wide-bodied giants of the future.

Heathrow, the world's busiest air hub run by British airports operator BAA, is likely to be the A380's first European destination when it enters service later this year.

Before the plane landed, the managing director of BAA Heathrow Tony Douglas described Thursday's events as "a monumental day in UK aviation history".

Addressing a press conference alongside Airbus' chief operating officer Charles Champion, who is also head of the A380 programme, Douglas unveiled the official opening of Pier 6.

The pier can accommodate up to four A380s at a time and seat 2,200 passengers waiting to board the giant planes.

Captain Strongman and his crew made a detour en route over two Airbus manufacturing sites in Broughton, north Wales, and Filton, near Bristol in southwest England before landing at Heathrow. Both plants employ about 13,000 British workers.

The compatability tests were to be carried out with BAA, which is spending 450 million pounds (EUR 664 million) on work to accommodate such ultra-large planes.

The A380, which can transport between 555 and 840 people, or 40 percent more than the Boeing 747, was to return to Berlin early Friday.

Singapore Airlines was to be the first carrier to put the plane into passenger service later in 2006. Other airlines that have placed orders include Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Dubai-based Emirates.

According to Airbus, the development costs of the A380 stand at about US $10.7 billion and the average catalogue price of each aircraft is US$300 million (EUR 235 million).

So far, 16 airlines have lodged a total of 159 firm orders for the Airbus plane. Champion of Airbus said Thursday that any airline wishing to order A380s at the present time would have to wait until 2011 for delivery.

BAA has invested in terminal work at Heathrow, runway resurfacing, upgrading runway lighting and the construction of new taxiways.

Airbus is a fully consolidated subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS). EADS owns 80 percent of the aircraft manufacturer and BAE Systems of Britain holds 20 percent.

Last month, BAE Systems sparked concern for British jobs after it announced plans to sell its 20-percent stake to its French-German partner EADS.

The A380 — which is 72.7 metres in length and is 24.1 metres high — made its maiden flight in April 2005 in the French of Toulouse, the home of Airbus Industrie.

Up to May 12, 2006, four A380s have carried out 367 test flights, the equivalent of 1,238 flight hours.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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